Assignment 2 Photographing The Unseen

For the research and planning behind this assignment please see my learning log post Research and Planning for Assignment 2.

Shooting this assignment and deciding on a topic was very frustrating and difficult for me at first, I had many ideas but when I tried to shoot them I found that they didn’t come together as I had hoped. The first idea I had was to try to document a mental health issue that I am familiar with (anxiety) using a rocky coastline setting. I did get some good shots that I think worked well with my ideas but I didn’t feel I had enough to make an effective set (where each photograph adds another piece to the overall picture). My second idea was still on the topic of mental health but I was more focused on patterns in nature and the way they could represent the way someone might be feeling (a Convolvulus weed strangling a wire, Stinging Nettles at awkward angles struggling to escape the confines of a net of Goosegrass, a Dandelion clock peeking up from below tall overpowering grasses). I like the idea but I found that my imagery was not coming out as I had hoped -I don’t think I was really feeling it enough for my creative energy to come through. Here are my trial and error contact sheets for the first two ideas:

Rocky coastline mental health metaphors contact sheets:


Nature and mental health contact sheets: (please note, there is a mixture of portrait and landscape as I was experimenting to see whether one was more fitting than the other)


Finally, I decided to try to capture an unseen side of my mother, who is just coming out of the end of an 18 month breast cancer treatment. The idea of the series is to try to capture some of the essence of my mother’s experience and the presence of ‘cancer’ in her everyday life that would not necessarily be seen or noticed by others. I didn’t use my mothers face in the photographs at all in the final set as I realised that it might add too much unnecessary information to the frame – I felt that a viewer, on knowing her diagnosis, would be searching for something in her face and that would take emphasis away from what I wanted to depict. I have tried to portray my mother’s strength, her ability to stay positive, her nerve and her connection to the world both through and despite her illness.

I am stubbornly trying to use my camera in fully manual mode all the time, despite difficulties over subject movement and tricky light etc. Despite the frustrations and countless failures I feel that my persistence is paying off, -after every exercise and assignment I feel a little more in control of my camera and I am beginning to learn the combinations of aperture to shutter speed to ISO that work best for the effect or look that I want to achieve. I used close-ups and a shallow depth of field where possible to help create a sense of closeness between photographer and subject.

I feel that my work on this assignment was inspired by Bryony Campbell’s The Dad Project -I was heavily moved by it after all. However, there are very obvious differences, in that the endings and overall message are quite different. Campbell’s project is about an intimacy between herself and her father that I feel is similar to my own relationship with my mother in this assignment. I used close-ups and a shallow depth of field where possible to help create a sense of closeness between photographer and subject. Where our projects differ is the emotional depth -Campbell’s story telling ends very differently to mine and although she shows a lot of positivity from her subject’s point of view, she also includes a personal reflection that displays sadness and fear, whereas I did not involve my own emotion in my series.

Contact Sheets:


Below are my final images for assignment. I have worked hard to ensure that each image adds a different element to the overall story and to make sure that the images are based more on ‘feeling’ than precise documentary. I am pleased with my final images and I’m glad that I scrapped the first ideas which allowed me to learn and to get to this body of work which fits well with the style I wanted to use (lots of emotion and intimacy and less precision and unnecessary information).

Final Images:

Mum’s recovery


Please see my Assessment Criteria Evaluation for my personal evaluation regarding this assignment.


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